TBA Law Blog


Posted by: Christy Gibson on Sep 17, 2012

By Elliott Ozment *

On August 21, 2012, Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall announced his office would not be renewing its 287(g) contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), when the current contract expires on October 8, 2012.

In 2006, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) applied to participate in the 287(g) program. According to the DCSO’s own 287(g) Two-Year Review (April, 2009), the decision to apply was made after “six illegal immigrants were arrested and charged with [vehicular] homicide during a three-month period.” DCSO’s application was approved December 2006, the 287(g) contract was signed in January 2007, and Nashville’s 287(g) program started operation on April 16, 2007.

In his original request letter to DHS on August 15, 2006, Hall represented that the program’s purpose would be “to enable [the Davidson County Sheriff Department] to participate with ICE in identifying criminal illegal aliens who pose a risk to the citizens of Davidson County”. This intent was echoed by ICE’s southeast spokesperson, Temple Black, who “seemed puzzled that Metro law enforcement would expend resources on busting undocumented workers who aren’t dangerous criminals. ‘What we are focused on is aggravated felons…. We don’t go down to the Shell Station and pick up [undocumented workers].’ Black … says that the average undocumented worker is not a threat. In fact, he cites them as a necessary part of the local economy. ‘All the illegal aliens that we have here in town putting sheet rock in housing … we don’t want to arrest them’.”

It did not take long for Nashville’s program to go awry. Since the Tennessee Driving Certificate Program expired in February 2006, an estimated 50,000 Tennessee drivers were on the road with an expired driver certificate/license. All these drivers had previously demonstrated the ability to drive and the willingness to obtain insurance, so none constituted a “risk” to Tennessee citizens while driving without a license. Yet, these were the persons who received a disproportionate share of 287(g) enforcement actions. According to a report issued by the Metro Government’s Criminal Justice Planning Unit, the arrest rates for Latino defendants charged with driving without a license more than doubled after 287(g) started.

Others were put into immigration court through Nashville’s 287(g) Program after being arrested on such arcane charges as “fishing without a license” (e.g.,  Noe Lopez on January 27, 2008) or “vagrancy” (e.g., Jose Estrada arrested for vagrancy as he was sitting by a laundromat at 5 a.m. on September 2, 2008 waiting for his employer to pick him up).

With reports highlighting such operations by Nashville’s 287(g) Program, the Program became extremely controversial. The announcement of the Program’s demise was celebrated by all immigrant advocates.

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*Elliott Ozment is the founding partner of the Immigration Law Offices of Elliott Ozment. He graduated from Vanderbilt Law School in 1975 and has focused his practice in immigration law since 1998. More recently, Mr. Ozment has devoted part of his resources to immigrant civil rights. He may be reached at elliott@ozmentlaw.com or 615-321-8888.